Boris Johnson urged to make New Year’s resolutions to tackle nature and climate crises

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Storms caused by the changing climate damage homes and habitats  (PA)
Storms caused by the changing climate damage homes and habitats (PA)

Some of the UK’s largest conservation charities have written to Boris Johnson urging him to make New Year’s resolutions to tackle the crises facing nature and the climate.

The National Trust, the RSPB, the Woodland Trust and the Wildlife Trusts are calling for urgent action including protecting peatlands, paying farmers to restore nature, and taking steps to preserve the oceans.

Warning of a “huge gulf between rhetoric and reality” in the government’s approach to tackling climate change, they said the momentum gained in November’s Cop26 talks in Glasgow must not be lost.

The charities’ leaders are asking the government to make seven promises:

  • Restore peatlands more quickly and ban burning of upland peat

  • Urgently bring forward the long-promised ban on the use of peat for horticultural purposes

  • Embed climate and nature objectives in agricultural support schemes

  • Ensure that the UK’s protected sites network is big enough and managed so that it protects habitats, species, environments and the carbon stored in them

  • Increase protection for the marine environment to harness its carbon-storing potential

  • Raise targets for tree cover in line with the recommendations of the Climate Change Committee

  • Make it obligatory for climate risks and hazards to be taken into account in all public decision-making

The eco charities also want farmers to be paid for taking action to tackle the nature and climate crises.

It’s claimed that these pledges would ensure the government can reach net zero carbon emissions and halt the catastrophic decline in nature.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said: “2022 needs to be the year when the government steps up with renewed commitments and investment.

“There’s still a huge gulf between rhetoric and reality to tackle climate change.

“We urgently need to cut carbon emissions deeper and faster, and ensure nature recovers across 30 per cent of land and sea by the end of the decade.

“The UK needs to ban new coal mines, set an end date for oil and gas exploration and production, put greater investment in nature restoration, and ensure agricultural and fishing industries are supported so that they can help solve – rather than worsen – the nature and climate crises.”

Last month the government announced a consultation on a ban on the sale of peat for use in domestic horticulture in England and Wales from 2024, and for professional use by 2028.

And a year ago ministers unveiled a partial ban on the burning of grouse moor peatlands in England.

They have also promised eco-incentives for farmers in a new “agricultural roadmap” along with a major tree-planting push.

But the letter urges them to go further and more quickly, saying: “November 2021 was a key moment in the global effort to keep 1.5 degrees alive, and an opportunity to set the bar higher in terms of recognising the vital importance of nature for addressing and adapting to climate change.”

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB, said two-thirds of the UK’s high-carbon, wildlife-rich places were unprotected and slowly being destroyed, adding: “The UK government needs to turn its rhetoric on the global stage into reality for our countryside.”

A government spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to tackling climate change, with the UK having cut emissions faster than any G7 country over the past three decades.

“We are taking action to limit rising temperatures with new pledges to cut carbon and methane emissions, end deforestation, phase out coal, and provide more finance to countries most vulnerable to climate change.

“Our Sustainable Farming Incentive will reward farmers and land managers for using more environmentally friendly farming practices. We are also consulting on plans to phase out the use of peat in the horticulture sector, and are promoting sustainable management practices on all peat habitats.”

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